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Newsflash: Parker not secret reptilian shape-shifter

Written By: - Date published: 11:28 am, July 25th, 2012 - 49 comments
Categories: david parker, privatisation - Tags:

There’s been some talk around the ‘sphere about a speech where David Parker made comments that some (*cough* Chris ‘the Right’s favourite Leftie’ Trotter *cough*) thought meant he supported asset sales. That obviously caused confusion because Parker and Labour are clearly against asset sales. Now, someone’s taken the innovative step of asking Parker what he meant (spoiler: it’s not what Trotter thought).

——————————————————-

Storm in T-blog? By Len Richards

A Labour stalwart is feeling quite confused and put-upon after querying (in an internal email newsletter) the breakfast speech made on 11 July by Labour Finance spokesperson, David Parker. Parker’s speech revealed an apparent contradiction between the Labour stand against asset sales and the Labour overseas investment policy that allows for the sale of electricity generators. An explanation seemed warranted.

The fact that our Labour stalwart was alerted to the Parker speech by a newspaper column and blog post by a favourite bogey of many Labour MPs, Chris Trotter, did not help his/her case (or standing in the party).

The question posed by the T-man and referred in the internal email newsletter was this:

 “Speaking to a group of corporate head-hunters on 11 July, Mr Parker spelled out the details of Labour’s policy on foreign investment. Concerned to prevent ‘nfrastructure assets with monopoly characteristics’ from being sold to offshore buyers, Labour, in the run-up to last year’s election, drew up a ‘closed list’ – to keep a “bright line” between “what is to be sold and what is not.” Among the infrastructure that was not to be sold was any: electricity line, water storage or irrigation networks; no seaports or airports; and no public hospitals, schools, railway lines or roads.

“Not included in Labour’s ‘closed list’ were telecommunications networks and – amazingly – ‘electricity generators’.

“According to Labour’s policy: ‘While the electricity market is on the cusp of becoming uncompetitive and exhibits monopoly-like characteristics, generation assets are diverse in nature, location and ownership.’

“What this means is that although Labour went into the last general election on a policy of ‘No Asset Sales’; and in spite of the fact that its campaign advertising showed a vast banner, displaying that very message, being draped over a hydro-electricity generating dam; the party was unwilling to include electricity generators on the list of state-owned infrastructure that ‘ought to be run in the New Zealand interest’ – and never be sold to foreigners.

“Am I alone in thinking that Labour’s foreign investment policy fatally compromises its current campaign against asset sales? If the generation of electricity is an activity which properly belongs to the market, and if New Zealand’s electricity generation assets are ‘diverse in nature, location and ownership’ and, therefore, able to be purchased by foreign interests, then I’m at a loss to know why the Labour Party is opposed to their partial privatisation.”

For Mr T. this is evidence that the Labour leadership (and caucus) is moving to the right and that a Shearer-led Labour Party could emulate the stalking-horse Rogernomics strategies of the Lange-led Labour Party of the 1980s.

Our Labour stalwart received a reply from David Parker’s office that managed to evade the central point of confusion and merely stated:

“The comments you refer to were not about this issue, but refer to the rest our policy to tighten up on controls on overseas investment in privately owned rural land and monopoly infrastructure.”

The key point that everybody seems to be missing is that Contact Energy, one of the four major electricity generators, is already totally in private ownership. In case anybody missed it, this happened under National in 1999. Here is the potted history from the Contact Energy website (written in 2007 I assume):

“The New Zealand electricity industry has undergone significant reform in the last 20 years. First, the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand (ECNZ) was established in 1987 as a state owned enterprise to operate as a commercial, profit-making organisation. ECNZ was the sole provider of electricity in New Zealand, including generation, transmission and retail. Electricity was distributed through local electricity supply authorities.

“Then, in 1994, Transpower was separated from ECNZ and created as a state owned enterprise. In 1996, ECNZ was split into two more state owned enterprises – ECNZ and Contact Energy – and a wholesale electricity market was established. Another major reform was the privatisation of Contact Energy in 1999.

“The last significant reform was the separation of the lines and energy businesses of the former Electricity Supply Companies and the split of ECNZ into three competing state owned enterprises: Meridian Energy Limited, Genesis Power Limited and Mighty River Power Limited. These reforms were designed to introduce a more dynamic and competitive environment into the generation, distribution and retailing of electricity.”

So where does that leave us with the Parker speech and the somewhat long-bowalley conclusions drawn by Chris Trotter?

The Labour asset-sales policy is “no sales” of existing state-owned assets. The foreign investment policy is no foreign ownership of monopoly infrastructure.

The electricity generator Contact is already privately owned, so it would be subject to Labour’s foreign investment rules. These are designed to put limits on foreign ownership, not private ownership. There is really no contradiction here.

The question that could be asked is; should energy generation be deemed too important to the economy and the environment to allow any form of private ownership of it, whether that be locally-based or foreign (is there difference in a globalised world?).

The re-nationalisation of all privatised energy generation infrastructure and the removal of the clumsy and artificial market mechanisms currently in place in the sector is a move that would have wide support amongst New Zealanders.

This is not (yet) Labour policy.

It is up to Labour members and affiliates to push for such a policy if they want to see it enacted by a Labour-led government.

The current democratic reforms of the Labour Party organisational structure and policy-setting mechanisms will make adoption and fulfilment of policies like this more likely.

——————————————————

I think the lesson here is that Trotter is the Matthew Hooton of the Left. You can’t take anything they say at face value, you have to go and check the primary sources to see if they’re misrepresenting things. – Eddie

49 comments on “Newsflash: Parker not secret reptilian shape-shifter”

  1. Bunji 1

    As Josie Pagani puts it (from the other side of the eternal Trotter-Pagani war):

    The ‘list’ in question refers to:

    “…the discretion of the Minister to consent to the sale to an overseas purchaser of any interest of 25% or more in infrastructure where that purchase is worth $10 million or more and the infrastructure has monopoly characteristics.”

    What Parker was saying is that, in a context where Labour is proposing to introduce stringent new restrictions on overseas investment, he would not stop Vodafone from buying TelstraClear. He wouldn’t stop the already privately owned Contact Energy from attracting overseas investment.

    This is nothing to do with asset sales which the Labour party opposes one hundred per cent; it is about the limits of Labour’s tight overseas investment rules.

  2. quartz 2

    Since when did the Standard become the mouthpiece for the right of the Labour party? You should be ashamed.

    • grumpy 2.1

      As an outsider, I thought “The Standard” reflected a huge range of leftish views that, at times, and depending on the topic, could be described as left, right, centrist. In fact the same contributor often flits about these camps depending on the subject.

      You are being unrealistic in your criticism.

      • lprent 2.1.1

        I was going to moderate that, but grumpy beat me to it. Most people here have a vast range of opinions. There is no faith of the left that people have to follow religiously with unthinking stupidity. Most of us prefer to use our brains.

  3. grumpy 3

    …explaining is losing………

    • felix 3.1

      That sounds like a snappy catchphrase, but what does it mean?

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        It means that he’s confused by the explanation and is now hiding under his “blanky”.

      • Lanthanide 3.1.2

        It means if you take longer to refute someone elses point than they spent making it, you’ve lost the debate because people (the public / the media) don’t have a long attention span.

        Eg, if Key fires off a ‘witty’ 1-liner and it takes Phil Goff 20 seconds to explain why he’s wrong, Phil loses.

        • Colonial Viper 3.1.2.1

          thanks for the clarity Lanth.

        • Bunji 3.1.2.2

          And with that explanation you’ve apparently lost Lanth…

          It’s another Duncan Garner ‘truism’ that just ain’t actually true.

          When Labour came out and explained the CGT, did they lose? Or was it actually taken up as not so bad after all – no longer the “third rail” policy it was seen as?

          I think Labour bought into “explaining is losing” too much at the last election. Some of their policies needed releasing earlier so that they could be explained and understood – and the arguments won.

          • grumpy 3.1.2.2.1

            I think the problem is that the initial release should have contained enough information to win the argument.

            Any second attempt make people think you hadn’t thought it through the first time.

            • Matthew Whitehead 3.1.2.2.1.1

              The initial release DID win the argument, everyone not deeply embedded in the National Party, (and even some that are) admit that NOT having a CGT is unrealistic.

      • Enough is Enough 3.1.3

        It means first impressions last.

        If a Labour or Green MP makes a statement that is open to interpretation, the media will always convey it the most controversial way.

        Therefore that MP is left explaining himself because of the media’s idiotic reporting. The explanation is lost to the media because they will always refer back to their original misinterpretation therefore keeping the slanted story alive.

        To avoid this they need to make clearer definitive statements to begin with. Parker especially because all he ever says is empty generalisations.

        • grumpy 3.1.3.1

          Exactly……now explain that to Felix…..

          • Deano 3.1.3.1.1

            you do realise that Felix was winding you up by asking you to explain “explaining is losing” eh?

            I love that Lanthe jumped right in and explained.

  4. gobsmacked 4

    I don’t pay much attention to Chris Trotter or Josie Pagani or Matthew Hooton, or any other self-important commentator or blogger. I doubt many voters do.

    But they do pay (some) attention to Labour’s leader and finance spokesman. They’re the ones who are responsible for communicating the party’s position … clearly, strongly, effectively.

    They aren’t very good at it. That’s the real problem.

    • tc 4.1

      +1 Rather than choose a clear new direction that along with the greens would see the Nat’s decimated in 2014 Labour caucus chose the muddle through with Shearer/Robertson and ineffective yes men like Parker with backstabbing has beens like Mallard etc offering cover.

      I wonder if Shearer has the balls to change Parker for Cunliffe who showed in the election last year he’s got English/Key by the bollocks with the numbers and the short soundbites that were clear and cutting.

      This Labour parliamentary team looks more like a bunch of seat warming sycophants than the people who can resurrect NZ from the interests Key and cohorts want to sell us out to. So much material has been offered up by the Nats yet Shearer looks happy to just go with the flow with a team that lacks passion and freshness.

      That flow is going towards becoming a minor party unless they wake up and do something which seems beyond them. Nice guy though DS is politics is a contact sport and the Nats have Labour where they want it…..ineffective with MrNice Guy out front.

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    The question that could be asked is; should energy generation be deemed too important to the economy and the environment to allow any form of private ownership of it, whether that be locally-based or foreign (is there difference in a globalised world?).

    Even though a good question it’s not the one that needs to be asked first. The one that needs to be asked first is: Is power generation across multiple generation techniques more efficient in an artificial market where information is restricted to separate companies or as a state monopoly that can make decisions on the full information? The state monopoly is, of course, more efficient as it allows a more dynamic control of the grid.

    One thing should be noted: The efficiency that a state monopoly in power generation enjoys is a physical efficiency which no amount of bureaucracy will improve – no matter how competitive.

    • grumpy 5.1

      A state monopoly in “generation” is meaningless without a similar monopoly in transmission and distribution.

      Of course total vertical integration right through to selling the energy would also help.

      Strangely, I could support this. We would be almost back to the old model which was State generation and transmission with Local Authority distribution and retail.

      To have so many generators, lines and retail companies in a country the size of a medium European city is insanity.

      • felix 5.1.1

        Yep that’s the crux of it for me too grumpy.

        There was never a good reason for these “companies” to be turned into “companies” at all. No need for “SOEs” or any other artificially separated frankenstein bullshit either.

        • grumpy 5.1.1.1

          As one involved in the industry at the time of the “reforms”, I am aware of some of the background manipulation.

          You are 100% correct felix (not often I can say that :-)

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.2

        To have so many generators, lines and retail companies in a country the size of a medium European city is insanity.

        You’re actually getting that wrong. First, the country is actually quite a lot bigger than a medium European city and secondly the population, which is what you actually mean, doesn’t matter either. The single dynamic grid (power generation and distribution) is what makes the state monopoly more efficient and thus would do so in Europe as well. As I said, it’s a physical efficiency which no amount of bureaucracy (read: Market) can improve. In fact, increasing the the number of actors in the market actually decreases efficiency thus increasing costs.

        • grumpy 5.1.2.1

          …should have clarified…..

          In terms of area and length of transmission you are right but in terms of the number of suckers (customers) to pay for all this duplication, I think I am……..

          • Draco T Bastard 5.1.2.1.1

            In that respect you’re correct but the duplication is still less efficient than a state monopoly which is why I said that the population doesn’t matter either.

        • grumpy 5.1.2.2

          It is the ability of the NZ energy companies to own both generation and retail that makes our market so much more “interesting”.

  6. DH 6

    This is a lame attempt at spin, a lot of words to say nothing.

    “The Labour asset-sales policy is “no sales” of existing state-owned assets. The foreign investment policy is no foreign ownership of monopoly infrastructure.”

    If they’re not going to sell any assets then there’s no need to legislate who can or can’t own them. The first statement makes the second superfluous.

    “The electricity generator Contact is already privately owned, so it would be subject to Labour’s foreign investment rules. These are designed to put limits on foreign ownership, not private ownership. There is really no contradiction here.”

    Contact is already majority foreign owned, how are they going to limit ownership of monopoly assets that have already been sold and which are now foreign controlled? Buy them back, force the owners to sell…?

    All I see here is a personal attack on Chris Trotter.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      Contact is already majority foreign owned, how are they going to limit ownership of monopoly assets that have already been sold and which are now foreign controlled? Buy them back, force the owners to sell…?

      Is Labour going to tell foreign Contact shareholders that the only people they will be able to sell their shares to are NZers and the NZ Govt? This is going to collapse the price of Contact shares and make it cheap for the Government to nationalise.

      I don’t believe this is what Parker meant, but if it is, he is more Left than anyone else I know in caucus.

  7. PunditX 7

    Blair used the same tactic on the rubber chicken circuit in the run up to the 97 election. One message for business and another for the party faithful. We all know that ended in tears..

    • alex 7.1

      I was just thinking that. This does seem to be a rather obvious case of tailoring the message. Is it any wonder people are listening to Parker and crying Bullshit?

  8. AmaKiwi 8

     
    Incompetent party leadership.
     
    Inexcusable.

  9. Bored 9

    Sorry Eddie, your contention that Trotter is the Hooten of the Left is just a load of total bollocks. The Right wing of the Labour Party, those mealy mouthed “centrists” actually resemble National (Lite). And Trotter quite correctly has called time on them. Parker is another of a long line of careerist middle of the road types, a Dunne in the making. Whilst he occupies centre stage in Labour you can forget any support from the Left, which plays directly into Nationals hands. Perhaps the Left prefer National to Labour pretending to be National.

  10. Bored 10

    Saw comment above about Pagani versus Trotter, non event. Pagani….just another National in drag person. Another reason not to vote Labour.

  11. Fortran 11

    Parker is an sadly an illterate Opposition Finance spokesman. He lacks real business experience to compete with Blinglish – at least he has worked in Treasury as a job, so he has an understanding from whence they come.
    At least Cunliffe has more real business experience, on a broader scale including in the international forum. As we are completely tied up in the world finance market such experience would be more useful to counteract the Nats.
    Parker’s financial experience is Dunedin only.
    Shearer should ignore Robertson and bite the bullet and bring in Cunliffe to the Finance role asap.

    • joe90 11.1

      Looking at Bill’s bio it seems he gained a double so he’d have been at university for at least five years graduating in 1984. He started at treasury in 1987 and gained his seat in 1990.

      So the reality is that he’s had perhaps three years running the family farm and another three as a public servant so when and where did he gain his real business experience?.

      • Colonial Viper 11.1.1

        English is a career public servant through and through. Newspaper rounds you had as a kid don’t really count as ‘private sector work’ in this game.

    • Bunji 11.2

      A2 milk’s a lot more successful than Bill’s family farm…

      And Dunedin’s a bigger town than Dipton…

    • Colonial Viper 11.3

      Fortran you dipshit, Parker was a partner at a major law firm. English is a career sucker of the tax payers teat.

      Which do you prefer.

  12. Populuxe1 12

    If Chris Trotter is the “Right’s favourite Lefty”, why would he be accusing Labour of right-wing tactics? That makes no logical sense. This post reeks of arse-covering agitprop. The current rule in Labour is very much of the Blairite “Third Way” stripe and we all know how that ended up.

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      No one in the Labour caucus is permitted to propose or discuss economic solutions outside of the permitted neoliberal free market framework.

      That’s how sad it has become.

  13. AmaKiwi 13

     
    I have a personal preference between Shearer and Cunliffe.  But the first rule of politics is “Win.”  The second rule of politics is . . . “Win,” etc.
     
    Neither Cunliffe nor Shearer as PM would be remotely as bad as the Nats winning another term.  I want the strongest possible Labour candidate.  IMO Shearer has to prove himself NOW or step aside and let Cunliffe have a shot.
     
    I have nothing personally against Phil Goff.  I was there and congratulated him at his first LEC meeting when he became leader and I was there on the night he conceded the 2011 election.  My anger with Phil is for not stepping aside in late 2009 and early 2010 when it was clear he was not going to beat Key. 
     
    My anger is with the caucus for not getting Phil out and replacing him so we had a stronger candidate for 2011.  We would have a Labour-Green government today if we had had a stronger candidate.  If Shearer can demonstrate superior vote winning skills in the next few months, I’ll back him.  If he can’t, I want us to try to win with Cunliffe.  If Shearer doesn’t have the skills but stays leader, I am not going to waste my time waiting for the caucus to act.  I’ll join and work for the Greens.
     
     
     
     

  14. AmaKiwi 14

     
    I have a personal preference between Shearer and Cunliffe.  But the first rule of politics is “Win.”  The second rule of politics is . . . “Win,” etc.
     
    Neither Cunliffe nor Shearer as PM would be remotely as bad as the Nats winning another term.  I want the strongest possible Labour candidate.  IMO Shearer has to prove himself NOW or step aside and let Cunliffe have a shot.
     
    I have nothing personally against Phil Goff.  I was there congratulating him at his first LEC meeting when he became leader.  I was there on the night he conceded the 2011 election.  My anger with Phil is for not stepping aside in late 2009 and early 2010 when it was clear he was not going to beat Key. 
     
    My anger is with the caucus for not getting Phil out and replacing him so we had a stronger candidate for 2011.  We would have a Labour-Green government today if we had had a stronger candidate.  If Shearer can demonstrate superior vote winning skills in the next few months, I’ll back him.  If he can’t, I want us to try to win with Cunliffe.  If Shearer doesn’t have the skills but stays leader, I am not going to waste my time waiting for the caucus to act.  I’ll join and work for the Greens.
     
     
     
     

  15. QoT 15

    Dammit, then he goes and ruins all your hard work, Len.

    Labour’s finance spokesman, David Parker, says his party’s policies on oil, gas and mineral extraction are close to those of the Government.

    “I don’t think we are much different from National,” Parker said.

    Source.

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